Question for beginning Violin/viola teachers


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Why does every single class string manual I have ever looked at completely ignore the low 2 until several months into the program(Usually after Christmas, or Spring of the first year.)?

Every single one starts with open, 1, HIGH 2, and then 3.

When I was young the class started with bow use on the open string, which is better than the modern alternative of starting with pizzicato left hand, but each approach, when introducing the left hand, ignored the low second finger.

This is equally baffling for cellists( And I avoid the problem by teaching the whole hand from the start) but it occurred to me that the reason for the problem may rest with the violin, and of course all the other instruments follow suit, so I’m directing it to the high string crowd.

 

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45 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

Why does every single class string manual I have ever looked at completely ignore the low 2 until several months into the program(Usually after Christmas, or Spring of the first year.)?

Because most beginners are more familiar with hearing major scales than minor scales. 

Blame "The Sound of Music."

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It's because that's the most natural way the fingers fall on the neck of the violin when starting out.

Once that finger pattern is learned, it's easier  (arguably) to learn to move the 2nd finger back.

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12 minutes ago, Rue said:

It's because that's the most natural way the fingers fall on the neck of the violin when starting out.

Once that finger pattern is learned, it's easier  (arguably) to learn to move the 2nd finger back.

I considered that, but I think that is incorrect. If you drop your fingers naturally, they will be equally spaced, and if you flop them down on a table they will be equally spaced. If you flop them freely on the fingerboard, high second finger is no more likely or comfortable then low second finger. I tried it myself on my own violin, although first of all I’m a cellist, secondly I have played violin in the past, and thirdly I am an old man, so I might not be the best example, but I do think that the “natural”answer is incorrect. 

When I teach, sometimes I teach first finger first, sometimes I teach second finger first, sometimes I teach fourth Finger first, but when I have them flop the hand freely on the fingerboard, the fingers are all equally spaced. They are always too close together, but they are always equally spaced. So it should be easy to teach the fingers in half steps(starting a whole step up from the open string) rather than to start from the beginning with the whole step between one and two.

Certainly with cello, there’s no reason to ignore 2.

Also, if we taught the whole hand, it would actually be easier from a classroom POV because the hand shape, and notes as well, would be the same for the three higher-instrument hands.

The double bass gets left out, poor thing, but that is usually true.

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Nope. The way your tendons function, at least when your hand is twisted, is in the above mentioned position. If the 2nd finger has to move to play an F# or C# in tune, it's easier to move it up, than back.

Other teachers start students in the key of A for that reason.

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35 minutes ago, Rue said:

Nope. The way your tendons function, at least when your hand is twisted, is in the above mentioned position. If the 2nd finger has to move to play an F# or C# in tune, it's easier to move it up, than back.

Other teachers start students in the key of A for that reason.

I am twisting my hand, and the fingers are gently touching each other. Given the much closer intervals on the violin, they are probably correctly spaced. I don’t think I’m unusual, and I certainly have less flexibility than a 10-year old, so I respectfully insist that there is no problem that is solved by using high 2.

Besides, if you proceed in half steps, the second finger doesn’t move at all, so the problem of moving backwards doesn’t exist at all.

Open D, then 1,2,3,4 and E,F,F# and G. What could be easier? And every instrument has a D string( the bass presents an issue but not an insurmountable one) so the notes AND the fingers are exactly the same.


This allows a few weeks of building overall stability in the hand, still allows for that silly affinity for G and D major, doesn’t omit 25% of the hand for several months, and makes the eventual expansion of the hand much easier because the student has learned all the fingers from the beginning. Also, because the cellos need to learn extensions anyway, the entire class can be taught the movement(expanding 1/2 step between 1 and 2) in the same class at the same time with the same concepts.

BTW, I would solve the double bass problem by not offering it to first year students. It is much too unwieldy for young children anyway.
An argument can be made for also not offering viola right away either. Start with violin and cello, and then after a year’s physical and musical growth, kids can switch to bass or viola.

oh, when I become king, After I get rid of all the people on my naughty list, reforming education is the first thing on my to-do list.

I await that happy day!

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4 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Why does every single class string manual I have ever looked at completely ignore the low 2 until several months into the program(Usually after Christmas, or Spring of the first year.)?

 

 

Student here- The manuals are following a certain classical tradition. It’s been systematized. 

I’ve been working with an Irish fiddle teacher who uses a system to train the fingers in all positions FIRST. Then the scales are learned. She learned it from her teacher, who I believe, developed the practice. 

I spent two years with a former Juilliard instructor, studying the classical way to learn, and I have to say, I’ve learned more “off book” in the past year from my fiddle teacher. 

You said reforming education is on your    to-do list. You might just start by studying the teachers who have adopted a more organic method of teaching. 

 

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I'm not quite sure about your fingering. Maybe it's different on a cello?

On the D string, in 1st position:

Eb   E   F   F#   G   G#   A

1      1   2    2     3    3     4

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13 minutes ago, Mystic said:

Student here- The manuals are following a certain classical tradition. It’s been systematized. 

I’ve been working with an Irish fiddle teacher who uses a system to train the fingers in all positions FIRST. Then the scales are learned. She learned it from her teacher, who I believe, developed the practice. 

I spent two years with a former Juilliard instructor, studying the classical way to learn, and I have to say, I’ve learned more “off book” in the past year from my fiddle teacher. 

You said reforming education is on your    to-do list. You might just start by studying the teachers who have adopted a more organic method of teaching. 

 

Yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been advocating in every comment I make. Learn all the fingers first and then the scales.
However, your Comment about your Irish fiddle teacher was a bit vague. You said she teaches your fingers in all the positions first. I am assuming that to mean that she teaches every position sequentially, but completely?

So she teaches all the fingers in first position, then teaches all the Fingers in second position, and so on? Or am I misunderstanding?

And yes, I do agree that the manuals do follow tradition, but my contention is that there is no reason for it, and teaching the whole hand, as your own teachers seem to advocate(If I am reading your comments correctly, at least) is a better way to accomplish the goal.

 

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51 minutes ago, Rue said:

I'm not quite sure about your fingering. Maybe it's different on a cello?

On the D string, in 1st position:

Eb   E   F   F#   G   G#   A

1      1   2    2     3    3     4

If those are violin fingerings, then I would advocate each finger in one place initially, and expanding the role of each finger, once the initial position is accurate, relaxed and repeatable.

if your referring to cello, you’re mixing first position with half position.

As I learned it, first position( on cello) is when the first finger is one letter above the open string. So first finger would be B on the A string, E on the D string, A on the G string. It would be F# on the E string for violin and for bass, but that’s not an issue for cello. 
Technically, first finger 1/2 step above the open string would be “low first” although I’ve always heard it as 1/2 position. I always explain the discrepancy to the kids, and they understand so it’s not a conceptual problem for them. Regardless, convention has always begun first position a whole step above the open string. Once the first finger is down, the others are added in 1/2 step intervals.

So initially, using the three common strings ADG, starting with first finger one whole step above the open string(one Letter, which is easy to remember, because it’s in alphabetical order) and each finger proceeding EFF#G. 
Every instrument can play the same notes with the same finger, and build up comfort level. The violins as well, would start with all four fingers on one note each, instead of three fingers on one note each. Then everyone could expand the positions as a group, minimizing the problems inherent in heterogeneous classroom teaching.
I am unfamiliar with any system that begins 1/2 step above open string, and doing so would involve a whole lot of accidentals, but it could work, though I don’t think it solves any meaningful problems, and sure seems to create a few.

Edited by PhilipKT
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1 hour ago, PhilipKT said:

Yes, that’s exactly what I’ve been advocating in every comment I make. Learn all the fingers first and then the scales.
However, your Comment about your Irish fiddle teacher was a bit vague. You said she teaches your fingers in all the positions first. I am assuming that to mean that she teaches every position sequentially, but completely?

 

First position, 3rd finger, g string then d, a, e, then going back down the strings. Then high two, moving from g through the strings to e then back down. Low two up then back. First finger on G (a) then slide down to low, slide back. Move on through the strings and back. Repeat, repeat, repeat. When you’ve mastered it, then scales and arpeggios. If it’s become second nature, learning second and third positions become a none issue. Your hands hold the memory. 

I also have problems with note dyslexia so picturing where the note is on the sheet music while I say it out loud as I’m playing is  helping.  I’m learning by a combination of ear, repetition and then sheet music. It’s been a long haul, but it’s finally making sense.

This is my third go around. I finally found a teacher who could teach the way I can learn. It’s a beautiful experience. Imagine all those children who have missed out on making music because of the limited views and abilities of their instructors. 

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10 hours ago, Mystic said:

First position, 3rd finger, g string then d, a, e, then going back down the strings. Then high two, moving from g through the strings to e then back down. Low two up then back. First finger on G (a) then slide down to low, slide back. Move on through the strings and back. Repeat, repeat, repeat. When you’ve mastered it, then scales and arpeggios. If it’s become second nature, learning second and third positions become a none issue. Your hands hold the memory. 

I also have problems with note dyslexia so picturing where the note is on the sheet music while I say it out loud as I’m playing is  helping.  I’m learning by a combination of ear, repetition and then sheet music. It’s been a long haul, but it’s finally making sense.

This is my third go around. I finally found a teacher who could teach the way I can learn. It’s a beautiful experience. Imagine all those children who have missed out on making music because of the limited views and abilities of their instructors. 

Your mention of your dyslexia is very interesting, I have a student who has a similar condition, and when we were playing things, I would have her visualize the letter and say it Before she shifted, and now she says it internally, but it worked, I was incredibly grateful because she’s a very dear young student… Although she’s about to graduate and go off to college so she’s not that young anymore I guess

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11 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Why does every single class string manual I have ever looked at completely ignore the low 2 until several months into the program(Usually after Christmas, or Spring of the first year.)?

Every single one starts with open, 1, HIGH 2, and then 3.

When I was young the class started with bow use on the open string, which is better than the modern alternative of starting with pizzicato left hand, but each approach, when introducing the left hand, ignored the low second finger.

This is equally baffling for cellists( And I avoid the problem by teaching the whole hand from the start) but it occurred to me that the reason for the problem may rest with the violin, and of course all the other instruments follow suit, so I’m directing it to the high string crowd.

 

Interesting question, indeed.

I think it's habit. People believe children are VOCALLY at their easiest in C Major / A minor . That might come from how piano keys are configured. I was told and tend to believe it, that children do better in A Major/Minor and then D Major ( and not D Minor) . Again, VOCALLY. Also, children are first taught to sing / recognize a major scale. I see ( and hear ) a lot of problems with/caused by this system and I am of the opinion one should start in A/D Major . 

Connected to this discussion one should listen to the difficulties many present day soloists have with half tones in cantabile passages........

 

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10 hours ago, GeorgeH said:

 

Because most beginners are more familiar with hearing major scales than minor scales. 

Blame "The Sound of Music."

Very true. But I am having a nagging thought we are misunderstanding his question, somehow. 

Well, we'll work on it.... :)

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12 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

If those are violin fingerings, then I would advocate each finger in one place initially, and expanding the role of each finger, once the initial position is accurate, relaxed and repeatable.

if your referring to cello, you’re mixing first position with half position.

...

I'm referring to the violin of course. I don't play the cello. 

And yes, you certainly don't start by learning all finger positions. You start with the fingering that was mentioned in the first post. I was only illustrating which fingers would sound which notes. And of course this changes as the student/music advances.

For the beginner, in first position -

D string on the violin:

Eb   E   F   F#   G   G#   A

   -    1   -    2     3    -     -

Gotta start somewhere. No need to overcomplicate it.

The only problem I see, with any approach, is when the student is kept in that position too long and they can't get "out" of it. Since my interest is with adult beginners, I can see how profound the problem can become.

          

 

 

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36 minutes ago, Rue said:

I'm referring to the violin of course. I don't play the cello. 

And yes, you certainly don't start by learning all finger positions. You start with the fingering that was mentioned in the first post. I was only illustrating which fingers would sound which notes. And of course this changes as the student/music advances.

For the beginner, in first position -

D string on the violin:

Eb   E   F   F#   G   G#   A

   -    1   -    2     3    -     -

Gotta start somewhere. No need to overcomplicate it.

The only problem I see, with any approach, is when the student is kept in that position too long and they can't get "out" of it. Since my interest is with adult beginners, I can see how profound the problem can become.

          

 

 

Oh yes I think we are agreeing in terms of the symbols and fingerings. My contention is that although on the violin each finger plays multiple notes, to start off with they should be in a single place, each finger on 1/2 step starting one letter above the open string. That way everybody in the class has the same fingerings and the same notes and after a very short time, much shorter time than traditional teaching, The finger moving from one note to the next can commence. Sliding a finger within a position is actually quite difficult unless the hand is relaxed. 

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16 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

Oh yes I think we are agreeing in terms of the symbols and fingerings. My contention is that although on the violin each finger plays multiple notes, to start off with they should be in a single place, each finger on 1/2 step starting one letter above the open string. That way everybody in the class has the same fingerings and the same notes and after a very short time, much shorter time than traditional teaching, The finger moving from one note to the next can commence. Sliding a finger within a position is actually quite difficult unless the hand is relaxed. 

I thought I might not've understood you first time : I do not see how what you propose is workable in practice. 

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21 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

I thought I might not've understood you first time : I do not see how what you propose is workable in practice. 

I must’ve expressed myself poorly. I will haul out my violin and make a videoI must’ve expressed myself poorly. I will haul out my violin and make a video.

In this video my thumb is in the wrong place but it is adequate for demonstration purposes. It shows what I mean. 1234 play EFF#G. For what it’s worth this violin only has two strings too, ha ha

Edited by PhilipKT
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28 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

I must’ve expressed myself poorly. I will haul out my violin and make a videoI must’ve expressed myself poorly. I will haul out my violin and make a video.

In this video my thumb is in the wrong place but it is adequate for demonstration purposes. It shows what I mean. 1234 play EFF#G. For what it’s worth this violin only has two strings too, ha ha

FullSizeRender.mov

Clear. I got it know - it's how I thought I understood it. I'll have to think about it. It might work pedagogically but the frame of the hand is not right. But that won't matter if you move ahead quickly...  Very interesting.

Anyway, I noticed ( and so did you ) that your thumb is very low - East European style. I learned mid way - the nail fully out but I see most everybody has the thumb projecting very high - they could almost use it for fingerings. :)   This matters A LOT later.

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5 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

Clear. I got it know - it's how I thought I understood it. I'll have to think about it. It might work pedagogically but the frame of the hand is not right. But that won't matter if you move ahead quickly...  Very interesting.

Anyway, I noticed ( and so did you ) that your thumb is very low - East European style. I learned mid way - the nail fully out but I see most everybody has the thumb projecting very high - they could almost use it for fingerings. :)   This matters A LOT later.

Oh, my thumb is in the wrong place because one, I’m a cellist and two, because I’m holding the violin very awkwardly so I can videotape with the other hand. I understand the thumb wouldn’t be where it is in a playing situation. I think the thumb placement that I learned as a sixth grader Wayback win was wrong, I think the end of the metacarpal should be touching the neck, and the thumb should be oriented on that.

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7 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

Oh, my thumb is in the wrong place because one, I’m a cellist and two, because I’m holding the violin very awkwardly so I can videotape with the other hand. I understand the thumb wouldn’t be where it is in a playing situation. I think the thumb placement that I learned as a sixth grader Wayback win was wrong, I think the end of the metacarpal should be touching the neck, and the thumb should be oriented on that.

Yes, that seems to be the modern take on things and I am sure it works well for the modern way of playing. I do think it reflects negatively in tone, articulation and vibrato but those don't seem to carry the weight they used to a loooong time ago. Eastern folk players keep the thumb under the neck and if need be they crawl-shift around 3 positions. That way they get maximum articulation speed and excellent trill like vibrato. Modern violin playing ( can't comment on cello... ) is basically a "best overall" thing in which nothing is really excellent though everything is really good. :)

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2 hours ago, Rue said:

 you certainly don't start by learning all finger positions. You start with the fingering that was mentioned in the first post. 

I think most people who are learning to play electric guitar do start by learning lots of finger positions all the way up the neck because visually it's obvious where you are on the neck. And it's easy to learn that way. Not as easy as a piano, but still easy. 

So this can be re-learned more easily on a violin. The main adjustment being intonation, which is the same problem for everyone. 

Do the fingerings have to be learned a certain way?

So I don't see this as a complicated issue. The difficulty is gaining the strength in the hands, arms and shoulders, other muscles specific to the technique required and the amount of time we can play before fatigue sets in. This is just as true for a big strong man as it is for a child.

My solution is simple; stop before you are tired and lose motor control, whether this is 3 seconds or several minutes. Repeat.

 

 

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27 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

Yes, that seems to be the modern take on things and I am sure it works well for the modern way of playing. I do think it reflects negatively in tone, articulation and vibrato but those don't seem to carry the weight they used to a loooong time ago. Eastern folk players keep the thumb under the neck and if need be they crawl-shift around 3 positions. That way they get maximum articulation speed and excellent trill like vibrato. Modern violin playing ( can't comment on cello... ) is basically a "best overall" thing in which nothing is really excellent though everything is really good. :)

Well, I can’t comment on violin technique beyond the most basic stuff. I can still play Rondino, but that’s the farthest I got before realizing that Violin was boring and cello was-and is-where it’s at.

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2 minutes ago, sospiri said:

I think most people who are learning to play electric guitar do start by learning lots of finger positions all the way up the neck because visually it's obvious where you are on the neck. And it's easy to learn that way. Not as easy as a piano, but still easy. 

So this can be re-learned more easily on a violin. The main adjustment being intonation, which is the same problem for everyone. 

Do the fingerings have to be learned a certain way?

So I don't see this as a complicated issue. The difficulty is gaining the strength in the hands, arms and shoulders, other muscles specific to the technique required and the amount of time we can play before fatigue sets in. This is just as true for a big strong man as it is for a child.

My solution is simple; stop before you are tired and lose motor control, whether this is 3 seconds or several minutes. Repeat.

 

 

Exactly correct.

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Short reply to this thread as I am working right now.  You guys can yell at me later.

Why not just teach basic chromatic scales in one and two octaves?  That way, you got the low 1, low 2, high 2, high 3, low 4, blah blah.  

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